"Francois Bonivard was a celebrated prisoner of Chillon. He spent part of his detention in Chillon underground prison, living in the semi-darkness with his imagination as his sole distraction. Prior of Saint-Victor in Geneva, Bonivard was a partisan from the City of Calvin during the struggles against Duke of Savoy. He was arrested by the Savoyard army in 1530 and imprisoned at Chillon. He lay there for six years until he was liberated by the Bernese in 1536. Confined in the 'underground room' and deprived of enjoying the landscape, the captive could only perceive the waves and the reflection of the light on the lake. In the Chronicles of Geneva, which he drew up after his liberation he wrote: 'They threw me into a cellar whose floor was lower than the lake above which Chillon was situated'. Chained to the fifth pillar of the basement, without being able to approach the narrow openings onto the lake, the prisoner imagined with terror that he was being detained beneath the level of the lake.
Bonivard was made famous in the 19th century by George Gordon Byron who transformed the personage into a veritable myth by his famous poem Prisoner of Chillon. He even went as far as to engrave his name on a column to which he believed Bonivard had been chained. For Byron, as for other artists Chilon was an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Alphonse Lamartine, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas have all extolled the castle, leading in their steps countless admirers of literature relating to contrasted landscapes and ancient stones. Situated at the crossroads between the picturesque (the indented silhouette of the mountains and castle towers), and the exalted (the storms, prisoners and executions), the decor of the castle fitted perfectly within the Romantic conception of beauty […]"*
* The text is copied from the explanatory board in the Chillon underground prison.
On December the 4th 1971, during the concert of Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention in Montreux Casino, a rocket flaire was fired into the ceiling and the Casino building was suddenly engulfed by flames. Ian Gillan of Deep Purple was inspired by clouds of smoke above Lake Geneva to write Smoke on the Water, one of the most famous rock songs of 70s.
Ian Gillan has written about December the 4th 1971 events: "We all came out to Montreux, to make an album; because the guys were keen to get a different sound. The Rolling Stones had a state of the art mobile recording studio built into a truck; so we rented it and had it set up alongside the Casino, which was a beautiful old wooden building.
(Funky) Claude Nobs, who was (and still is, as I write nearly thirty years later) the driving force behind entertainment in Montreux (records, films, the jazz festival and so on), had arranged for us to use the concert hall in the Casino to make our record, and we duly arrived and watched the last show of the season, the day before the Casino (and the town) closed down for the winter of '72.
Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention were onstage and I was sitting in the audience marveling at the Man and his music. […] I didn't seem much at the time as some guy shot a flare gun from over my right shoulder. I saw two blobs of fire loop across the hall into the top corner.
Very quickly, the room caught fire and there was a danger of pandemonium as people started to panic. Frank stopped the band and took over, controlling the situation and talking almost everyone out safely.
A few kids had run back through the kitchen door and down a flight to nowhere. Claude Nobs, heroically, found the party and led them to safety.
No lives were lost; thanks to Frank and Claude and no thanks at all to the dickhead who started it.
We sat in the restaurant of the hotel 'Eden au Lac' and watched the flames racing into the sky, fed by the downdraught of the wind from the mountains. Later, as the inferno waned, we looked out across Lake Geneva and saw that it was covered with a layer of smoke. […]"
Deep Purple made Montreux famous with Smoke on the Water.
All women, pay attention! You will love parking your car in Swiss parking garages. Why? Because they've made some effort for us. We have our own broad parking spaces, which are (as as extra) closest to the elevators and stairs. Shopping can be sooo easy ;-)
On the 6th of June, 1954, Montreux became the venue for the first transmission by the European Broadcasting Union's Eurovision Network, or, to make it simpler – Eurovision began its life as a "summer season of European television exchanges". The first programme transmitted from Montreux was Narcissus Festival. It was eagerly watched on four million television sets in homes, bars, and shop windows in Germany, Belgium, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands and Switzerland. Only the "next step", two years later, was Eurovision Song Contest, one of the most popular and the longest-running television programmes in the world.
Place de l'Eurovision – Eurovision Square commemorates this event by the plaque informing about the beginnings of Eurovision, inaugurated on the 50th anniversary, in 2004. Besides it, there is beautiful sulpture "Man/Fish/Flying", artwork of Lausanne sculptor Gaspard Delachaux, created in 1985, on this space by the shore of Lake Geneva.
Place de l'Eurovision is the meeting point of Montreux-Vevey Tourisme.
Lord Byron apparently had a thing for carving his name in stone, I had just read LoriPori's tip on how he carved his name into the Temple of Poseidon in Sounio before I left so I was a bit amused when I saw that he felt compelled to do it again at the Chateau de Chillon.
It's located on the 3rd pillar in Bonivard's Prison at the Chateau and is highlighted by being covered with plexiglass.
Bonivard was a Prior of St. Victor's in Geneva and was imprisoned for four years by the Catholic duke, chained to the 5th pillar, because he supported the independence of Geneva. He was freed on March 29, 1536 when the castle was captured by the Bernese. Byron immortilized him in a poem, "The Prisoner of Chillon".